In March, I started a new and reoccurring blog series that I call #NewMusicMonday. I plan to highlight new music releases hopefully during a current one, two, or thee month stretch throughout the year. This installment is for April-May, but it's really impossible for me to find and capture on a playlist every song released at a particular month.
So this month, you will see some of my new favs I found dating back to January that I missed in my January-March installment. I may also throw in an old song that's been recently recorded. For example, I have several #StayAtHome videos of Jimmy Fallon and James Taylor songs that I think you will enjoy. I may also throw in a song or two I haven't heard before. Paul Hobbs sent me a 2019 Keb' Mo'/Taj Mahal song plus several new releases, and I added a 2019 video from Rosie Flores who played the San Diego club circuit in the 1970's with Rosie and the Screamers, and rekindled some fond memories.
I think I'm like many people who finally heard about the Drive-By Truckers as the band that kicked out Jason Isbell in 2008 for his heavy drinking.
It's that kind of back-asswards approach to getting into a band as I started to follow Isbell and then played my way to the Drive-By Truckers and started streaming their albums into my favorites on Amazon. Time after time, I'd be on a trail run with shuffle mode on and I'd have to stop and look at my iPhone screen in the sun and say, "Who are those guys?"
Well those guys are Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley who co-founded the Drive-By Truckers in 1996 in Athens, Georgia. The Unraveling is their 12th studio album. After a couple of listens, I realized it's a sobering album best experienced in its entirety rather than picking a few songs for a 'best of' playlist (which I of course will do in a later blog). This album rails against a 'Trump America' as some of the song titles are literally taken from our current headlines. As one of the Youtube comments say under one of the songs, [if this album is not for you simply] "don't listen." But hey, at least dig the very cool album cover.
These southern rockers are writing their lyrics from their hearts and I'm hearing the message on this very current and downbeat album. I encourage you to give it a full listen.
One of the goals this year with my blog is to present whole albums from the past and present.
Great albums much like great novels are a musical narrative that must be experienced whole.
Songs brought together in an album often write their own little chapters that bring together an emotional and cerebral experience. Collective songs on an album have the power to alter your state of mind, rise you up, take you on a journey, or just make you smile and shake your head to the rhythm.
Tommy Emmanuel is one such musician who is revered by many around the world. You can look at his discography and realize that he has made an album almost every 2-3 years since 1979. When you accomplish something like that, you realize he is making these albums for his joy, and the joy that it will bring others. "One of six children, Emmanuel was born in Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia, in 1955. He received his first guitar in 1959 at age four and was taught by his mother to accompany her playing lap steel guitar. At the age of six in 1961, he heard Chet Atkins playing on the radio. He vividly remembers that moment and said it greatly inspired him." Wikipedia
Growing up, Tommy's family formed a band, sold their house and went on the road to perform when he was seven years old. Over the years he played in numerous bands traveling the world. His fame developed over the years as a highly coveted 'session player' recording on many musicians albums, not to mention his fun and relaxed personality made him friends and fans everywhere he went.
Tommy's gift as an acoustic guitar player begins with his hero, Chet Atkin's and following Chet's Travis picking style. Tommy as an Australian, is pure Americana in that his passion is to mix- jazz, blues, bluegrass, country, folk, rock and world beat rhythms into a musical deep dive accompanied by his famous finger picking. Tommy often beats his guitar with his right hand while laying down a percussion line with his left thumb on the top bass strings, while the remaining left fingers blend in a melody. When you watch this you realize his right fingers are literally dancing on the strings and he becomes, a one man band. Tommy does around 300 concerts a year all over the world. His heart and soul is the definition of troubadour.
If Tommy is anything, he is a collaborator. He loves to play with other musicians and boy do they love to play with him. In late 2018, I discovered Accomplice One (you can buy it here on Amazon), released in January, 2018. So I'm about a year late to the Tommy E. party, that on this album includes- Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Ricky Skaggs, Jorma Kaukonen, David Grisman, Mark Knopfler, Jake Shimabukuro, and Rodney Crowell to name just 'the names.'
This album is a real collective treat that tells a story based on your imagination. All the songs from Accomplice One are on the playlist this week, and please make time to watch Tommy's TED Talk at the end. Tommy's a classical gas!
As a footnote- I see Tommy has just released a new album called Heart Songs with John Knowles on January, 11th. And, in the story of my concert life have just discovered he played in San Diego at the Balboa Theatre on January 12th. I can't believe I missed this opportunity, my verbal language is quite colorful at the moment!
Now with that said, let's go back to take a listen to some of the best songs from last year. In putting this post and playlist together, I looked at several top lists from the "Best songs of 2017" on the Internet. Current stars such as Kendrick Lamar, Chris Stapleton, Harry Styles, and St. Vincent came up, as well as many other artists who I have never heard of before. I'm thinking, with rap, pop and country pop as the main music plays on the airwaves, who's going to dive into my 2017 list of 100 songs? I'm the guy who likes acoustic music, or as some might say, "the old white guy who listens to banjos and mandolins."
So from the pick of the names above, you'd probably peg me as a Chris Stapleton guy, well no. I know he's a gifted singer-songwriter but he just doesn't have that "it" factor for me– maybe a little too much stereotypical male country voice. Then why do I like Meryl Haggard? Again, maybe it's as simple as just having the magical "it" that draws you to an artist that you can't always explain. Then for things that I can explain, like the sound of the female singing voice as in the perfect harmony of The Secret Sisters that is simply one of the most beautiful things in the world.
I first started the Monday Monday Music blog two years ago on January 5, 2015 as a writing exercise that I designed for myself, to improve my writing in my educational consultant business. Writing this blog has been fun and given me a confidence to keep writing in other areas. Last summer, I began to research and write most everyday towards the completion of my first book called, Transformation by Design: The Integration of Learning Design, Physical Space Design and Digital Space Design. I believe all my current writings have changed my life from what I was doing just a couple years ago. And in the spirit of a 62 year old upstart, to paraphrase what many accomplished writers have said in one way or another, "I've only written to myself for myself." My music playlists, like my writings here are an extension of my passion for music that I have curated for me, but are also equally fueled with a motivation and great hope that you're reading and listening to both.
The first song on the playlist is Prisoner, by Ryan Adams. I rarely record video at concerts because they look and sound like crap, but I like this one. I was sitting in the fourth row at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on June 1, 2017. The video does look like crap, but my phone magically picked up the sound better than usual. Here's me, becoming a new big fan of Ryan Adams in the moment, not to mention one of the best albums of 2017, Prisoner. The next song from the same album is, To Be Without You and is my favorite song of 2017. I love this album!
Speaking of albums, you can see from the 24 album covers collage that I put together at the top of the post, I'm an album guy. I think it is very important that you at least "skim and scan" an album, and one thing Youtube is very useful for before you purchase. Liam Gallagher's solo debut, As You Were, is a good example. I started skimming it on YouTube, but quickly settled in for a deeper listen and really enjoyed most of the tracks on the album.
The concept of a record album is such a wonderful thing. You may buy an album for a hit song but yet, have a mini collection of the musicians' work at that moment during their time in a recording studio together. If you make the time to listen, there's magic in the deeper cuts as many albums are unique unto themselves from an artist's or band's total catalog. Billy Joel's The Nylon Curtain comes to mind for example. In fact from my list of 100 here, many of the songs represent those cuts so often overlooked in the media.
Here's my Top 10 songs released in 2017 (and hard to cut that down from 100), but these are the songs that give me a special rush (just add Christmas headphones) and get better the more you hear them.
To Be Without You - Ryan Adams, Prisoner
If We Were Vampires - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound
King of a One Horse Town - Dan Auerbach, Waiting on a Song
Helpless - John Mayer, The Search for Everything
Mississippi - The Secret Sisters, You Don't Own Me Anymore
Beach Boys - Weezer, Pacific Daydream
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness - The National, Sleep Well Beast
Hollywood - Lee Ann Womack, The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone
Paper Crown - Liam Gallagher, Liam Gallagher
Carry Me - The Secret Sisters, You Don't Own Me Anymore
So I'm hoping you at least you skim and scan this playlist as I've purposely scattered each artist or band's songs around as a linear shuffle (my basic technique for most of my YouTube playlists). Enjoy my friends and here's to listening to new and old music in 2018!